Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Bliss foods, to fight depression

Depression is a subject close to my heart. I originally started off yoga with a whole "bouquet" of problems-- these included bronchitis, at the physical level, and at the emotional level deep and clinical depression, undiagnosed those days because I simply did not know it was a problem and thought it was personality trait that came from my background - poverty, familial problems as a child etc. . The reason I became awed by yoga and its corresponding sister sciences like Ayurveda (diet) and naturopathy was that it offered cure at a very sensible and commonsensical fashion. It also told me that I was not imagining what I felt, and that I could heal myself if I just continued in the path I was going, including eating the right food. It empowered me by allowing me to be my own healer. It is a puzzle to me why people struggle with yoga -- I mean, it gave me my life back.

Any case, this article in Rediff.com shares some part of the wonder. And it is written with the death of Robin Williams still fresh in my mind -- that a lot of depressives should not be given anti-depression pills because they are addictive, but just be guided firmly along the yoga and Ayurveda path for healing.

And if you did not know it (in a way I should be grateful my clinical depression was not diagnosed, because I would have been smothered with anti-depression medication) these pills, though originally they contain the problem, they actually make you suicidal. Nowadays I am told prescriptions for these are made for children who cannot cope with exam stress!! Horrible..

Thursday, September 04, 2014

Toughest Astavakrasana..

Managed to get this extremely tricky Astavakrasana. It must be its toughest variation yet. You use muscles you have never used before and also first become comfortable with extreme discomfort at the elbow. (Which is a gentle way of saying unnatural pain:)
It is a very "heavy" pose and the body has to struggle with understanding which part of must be used for the lift. Unlike in the basic astavakrasana, where one hand lifts the pose, in this both arms are used, which actually makes it a bit difficult because the weight is not evenly distributed. Also, the pose cannot be entered at this final position. You may have to learn to start by having your forearm on the ground and then lifting up. Then releasing the wrist and palm. Which is all very tricky and asks for frequent shift of weight on the overloaded elbow.

But I believe regular practice of this will help with the scorpion pose which has the similar elbow lift and is called the "chilled out" scorpion pose, I think:)
Happy sadhana!

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Astavakrasana, the powerful message of the pose

Here is the message of the Astavakrasana, attributed to a child saint, who was only 12 years old when he revealed his spiritual maturity and wisdom. Here, in a slight rebuke to the aversion expressed by king Janaka on seeing his crooked body, the young boy says:

O King, just as the shape of a temple does not affect the akasa (sky), the crookedness of the physical body has no effect on Atma (Soul). A wise man has Atmadrstii.e. he looks at the Reality behind this manifested world, whereas an ignorant one hasCarma-drsti i.e. he gets lost in names and forms."

What a powerful message, especially when we fail to keep track of yogic philosophy behind each pose...


Astavakrasana advanced version: the crooked limb pose, elevated to another level

When I learnt this pose, I was super excited.I  had read the Astavakragita before I learnt the pose and though a small text, it is a very exciting, clear cut treatise that explains the spiritual philosophy of yoga in a concise form.  The story of the crooked limbed saint is also gripping.

I have been teaching the "simpler" version of this pose to my students and realize how much more easy it is than the parsvabakasana (side crow) and many other arm balances, though it looks so complicated. Most of my students pick it up on first attempt, or in the following week, after regular practice. Which just goes to show that in India at least many of these poses are not being taught simply because the teachers are lazy or not as excited about the hatha yoga aspect of the practice. Too much blah, without too much practice makes for a very boring practice.

However, this version is rather tough. It is an upward lift of the legs against gravity and needs very strong oblique muscles and core strength.

* Focus on the oblique muscles to lift up.
* Keeping the hands as straight as possible, when starting off (the lifting arm will bend a bit, to accommodate the legs).
* Keeping the legs -- the bottom leg -- straight and to the side.

It is a very tough pose and very exciting to practice.  The engagement of the oblique muscles kicks into acupressure points that stimulate the nervous system positively, and hits what I prefer to call "joy" points!
* Needs a very strong basic astavakrasana.
* Brahmacharyasana and lolasasana as preparatory poses.
* A steady boat pose too.

HERE ARE A FEW VERSES FROM THIS SITE, from a translation of Astavakragita.  If you try to grasp them, you will finally understand what yoga is about. However, I advise those who wish to read the Astavakragita to pick up the inexpensive translation/interpretation  by Ramakrishna mission(Khar, Mumbai) It is best to read such treatises through several interpretations. The translations may not quite vault you into the stratosphere of thinking which is Indian philosophy:)

A sage said: "First of all I was averse to physical activity, then to lengthy speech, and finally to thinking itself. Trying to think the unthinkable is unnatural to thought."                                                                                         
56. Just as the performance of actions is due to ignorance, so their abandonment is also due to ignorance. 
57. The inner freedom of having nothing is hard to achieve, because it requires living as one pleases, abandoning both renunciation and acquisition.                                                                          
58. Recognising that in reality no action is ever committed, the sage lives as he pleases, just attending to what presents itself to be done. 
59. No benefit or loss ever comes to you, consequently live as you please, abandoning the pleasant and unpleasant.
60. One person of pure intelligence may achieve the goal by the most casual of instructions, while another may seek knowledge all his life and still remain bewildered.  

Happy sadhana!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Scorpion pose tidbits

According to Swami Satyanandaji  the scorpion pose(only some facts that are not too well known about the pose is here:)
  1. Reorganises prana around the body
  2. Tones the uro-genital system
  3. Stops the aging process
  4. Rectifies glandular disorders
  5. Is a ajna chakra pose (Third eye/intuition chakra)
Interestingly both the Iyengar book and Swami Satyanandaji's book are using the same words -- verbatim -- to describe how the scorpion pose is a pose of ego subjugation. I wonder who said it first, and if it is a translation from a major text... even so, word to word, the same description!

The easiest of the scorpion variation: baddha vrschikasana (locked scorpion)

Yes, I like teaching the scorpion. But to teach it, you need a basal attitude from the student. An ability to fall and not be overwhelmed by that. Because letting go is the first way to reach the pose. I believe this pose can teach you a lot of things: focus, regular practice, total awareness, and an ability to shift awareness when things are constricting you (as may happen with the breath unless you learn to release it, which means you again invite the chance to fall over:), strength and a sense of not taking anything --including your skills -- for granted. I have seen students who I have taught this, equally, due to lack of practice lose it. Coming from that can be more daunting than learning it for the first time. Though many have attempted it, only a few of my students can stake claim to this pose. Which is sad, because this pose helps you take a leap in yogic awareness.

I have neglected my lotus scorpion for a while. Today tried it and had to feel the struggle of returning to the pose.  So, settled into this locked scorpion, which is the easiest of the variations, if you wish to play around while being lifted aloft.

To this, you need the basic scorpion to be strong and steady.

What B.K. S. Iyengar says about the scorpion:

He says the drawing of the feet towards head creates humility in the practitioner. The head is the seat of power. But it is also the seat of the ego. Drawing the feet (a more flexible person than I, can rest the feet on the  head) towards the head is to create the sense of ego subjugation.

Mmmm..worth a thought!!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

R I P Guruji -- remembering B.K.S. Iyengar

In my pre-yoga days I was fortunate enough to visit Iyengar at his  Pune institute, for his 80th birthday celebrations. .
I was given the assignment suddenly, because the journalist who wanted to do that assignment, suddenly ditched. When assignments came suddenly, I had a huge build-up of stress as a mother of a young baby -- her  life and food and care had to be organized just as suddenly. Those days were before mobile made life and connections easier.
My mind, as a mother on the go, was always thinking about my baby -- just five years old then. I was having my periods. I remember even now, that day as a tough one,  multi-tasking and playing multiple roles, catching any first Pune bus, mentally gearing for a long ride, bleeding heavily and uncomfortable with that, and fortified only with some vada pav picked up along the way.  When I landed up, it was tough to have an one-on-one with the great man because a celebratory puja was along the way... and I tried as much to be around where he was, and then, later in the afternoon, when he was at the institute, followed him about.
 I was starving, feeling messy,  was exhausted, worried about my baby very much, and also, as happens at such occasions, felt jostled about, by some "official machinery"  around him.

This article was born of that tough ride:

Then, here, now as a yoga freak who has used Iyengar book all the time, for reference and support and study, my tribute written this morning:


Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Robin Williams, depression, your heart chakra

The irony of a comic genius dying of depression and the fact that he was such a loved face all around the world has driven home the horrible reality of depression. As a yoga teacher, depression is one of the biggest "ailments" I have consistently seen cropping up. Other ailments -- generally of physiological nature -- are usually almost always reversed or controlled with yoga. But depression has a tenacity all its own. Also, most depressives, including those on pills, do not see it as a physiological condition and believe that something is seriously wrong with them, as individuals, that it won't go away. So often, you will find depressives play footsie with the therapies that could heal them -- and will withdraw back and forth. In a manner of speaking, it is like addictive behavior -- the feeling overshadows everything, including their choices, and the feeling is wired to be self-destructive so it cunningly denies cures, even if often it almost could have been sorted.

This is a tragedy of the problem and I fear medicine cannot do much here..

Not just my study of chakras,but my own propensity to  emotional turmoil (which is why I am comfortable teaching yoga since I am not like those perfect, haloed  teachers and because I offer from my own experience of pain, weaknesses and falls and tumbles:) it is the heart that is the culprit.

According to Anodea Judith, whom I refer a lot to, on chakras, the fourth center /heart chakra in trouble is when grief overwhelms it.

Interestingly I picked up Let your Brain Be your Doctor, by Luis S.R. Vyas (who I believe is a very neglected author and deserves more attention than is reserved for him) where he makes out a case for "heart coherence". He draws up scientific data to show how the heart (emotions) actually controls much of how the brain (nervous system) behaves, though conventional wisdom seems to imagine that the brain is in control. He shows how the heart functions can affect mechanisms all over the body. That the heart has its own method and that to be able to become aware of this could well be the first, baby step you take towards healing anything, including emotions.

He has provided very simple steps by which you can change the way your heart behaves, at a physical level. For that you need to read his book.

I hope this quote helps you run to order this book (@ Rs 130 published by Better yourself books)
"We measure the heart's activity in rhythms. Research reveals that the rhythmic pattern of variability in your hear rate is related to your health, your emotional state and your thinking.
Not only that, but your heart's rhythms act as a powerful force to bring the rest of your body, including you brain, into a similar rhythm. If the pattern of your heart rate variability is one cycle very ten seconds, then it pulls the brain in to  a state of synchrony - that is your  brain harmonizes with your heart and both operate at higher levels of efficiency and effectiveness. Getting your heart rare variability to one cycle per 10 seconds is  the trick and anyone can do it."

Tomorrow, I am going to draw more into this topic of depression from the yogic perspective.
Its a subject very close to my heart.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Practices that help strengthen the heart chakra

Usually, if that is what you need, it is probably very difficult for you, on the mat.
I mean, if you needed to heal the heart chakra, it is likely the practices that heal, strengthen and tone this center can give you a lot of trouble initially. It takes a long and regular practice to get the heart chakra to open itself to what you intend.
I have known students who can burst out crying for no reason, and continuously cry though claim they are not sad but just feel the need for this release. This has happened with
* The wheel pose /chakrasana
* some variations of the bhujangasana/cobra and locust /salabhasana -- with the latter being really difficult for the heart-chakra affected person.
* yoga nidra -- can set off a lot of crying and healing especially some visualisations that include love as an idea

This just means you need to really continue with gritted teeth if need be with these practices. All backbends help in this direction. This may be why some people will feel very uncomfortable in backbends -- dizziness, the sense of breathlessness, actually holding the breath and/or often doing the pose structurally wrong so as to not excite the heart!

Heart chakra and immune system

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The only problem with Richard Gerber's book on Vibrational Medicine is that it is so full of information that it takes a long while to read it. U skim a bit here and there and get overwhelmed by all that he presents. Of course, much of what gets written about vibrational medicine will still be seen by conventional science as weird, psycho-mumbo jumbo etc. But there are aspects of these sciences, such acupuncture healing, that is getting some recognition even by conventional doctors.
Any case, as I was skimming through the book I fell upon this page talking of heart chakra and how he links it to the thymus atropy and functioning. From my own experience I can fully agree with that.. when I am low I can fall sick -- it could be a flu, or some stray ailment. I've had it as a child. Interestingly, the other day when talking to my sister and looking back on some, for me then and now traumatic incidents, from childhood I realized my sister's recollect of these were very different. Which means we both reacted differently to what I even now recall as very very sad moments of my life. Also, in some cases she did not seem to remember the incidents with the same excruciating  painful detail as I did. And it goes to show  that something about the incidents still hurt me and frighten me and that the incidents were so painful for me that for a very long part of my childhood, teen and youth I was a very sickly person.
I would fall sick like that -- and interestingly the heart chakra is also dominated by the air element -- which is my dosha -- and it is a very anxiety inducing/disease inducing element. As creative as it is, it is also destructive and drying out. It needs to be constantly grounded and healed with earth and water elements.
If I deeply disturbed even today, I can still fall sick if I was not vigilant as to the exact trigger. Much of my awareness of what tricks me back to the sickly-loop comes again from yoga. It is as if I have stepped out of myself, and then see where my thinking (negative/sad/low) is taking me. I sit about to tackle that loop and can be assured immediately that I can prevent a sickness from completely felling me. It is exciting this sort of awareness between thinking and one's body and healing. I completely believe in it and understand that it cannot be otherwise. How can your mind, created solely to take care of the body, be different from it.
"It is possible that the age related involution of the thymus gland is not universal phenomenon. In those who do have thymic atrophy in later years there may be a relationship between loneliness, depression, blockage of the heart chakra and the loss of glandular function," Richard Gerber.

He believes some of the heart chakra blockage comes from lack of love,but primarily lack of self-love or suffering the loss of someone close.

All that psychic details apart, I mean to only explain that of the four siblings I was the sickliest and that it may be not so strange that a lot of incidents I remember make me cry even now and it is strange it did not affect my other siblings in that fashion. Much of the recovery of this wobbly chakra has happened to me through yoga. It has helped sealed the big hole where my heart is:)
Even today I can cry about anything at all and if I did not have yoga I would be sickly and possibly dead by now..

Monday, July 28, 2014

Pranayamas: and their chakras

When people come to me, from other yoga classes, they will say that pranayama is not being practiced within the structure of these classes. If it is done, it is done haphazardly. I do not wonder why.:  A lot of times,there is pressure from students themselves -- because a lot of people dislike mind-control practices. In fact, if the mind is allowed its monkey movements, then people are happy. This is why, it becomes tough to hang on with integrity to what you believe is good for your students, despite of themselves!

I have even today, some smart alecky students who will try to corner me before a class or after it, to indicate they do not want to practice pranayama.(Read: I pay for this class, and you know customer is king:) Some students make out like they want to spend more time in asanas;  some students will fidget a lot and generally indicate through their body language their discomfort with the practice; some will yawn loudly and continuously; I have had students who will stop doing pranayama and sit and stare around;  and I even had a student who gave me a huge pile of literature on "intuitive" way of doing yoga instead of following a classical structure. I mean.. it gets worse because you may be the only one in this entertainment seeking city to hang on to the idea of pranayama as what asanas should lead you towards and that it is very much a part of raja yoga and is approved of in all yogas -- jnana yoga (Ramana Maharishi says it is very important tool in mind control in this branch of yoga), Bhakti (Adi Shankarachaya suggests you could say the Gayatri mantra in the various limbs of nadi shodhana practice), Raja (Sw Vivekananda) and of course, hatha yoga itself.

Here is the list of the chakras, according to Sw Satyananda, and the pranayamas that work on them. You will find that a lot of practices have the third eye activation.

Kapalabhati -- Ajna (Third eye)
Bhastrika -- Manipura
Bhramari -- Ajna
Nadi shodhana -- Ajna
Ujjayi - Vishuddhi

It is important to understand that these practices help to align /harmonise these chakras and that asanas are just the route that prep you for pranayama.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The main problem in meditation

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According to the Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, grasping is one of the barriers in meditation.
It does not however say, grasping what. But I think we all know what is meant -- the grasping of experiences -- having some sort of a pointer, a bookmark, a landmark or a level that one believes one has reached.
Constantly discussing what one experienced with others who are either having similar or more "awesome" experiences. A sort of kitty part of meditators:)
Referring to books and then mirroring one's experiences with what has happened to that author or hoping/praying/believing that one has had similar experiences.
Looking forward and looking backward to the "progress" in meditation.

The thing in meditation is to give up all such craving -- which is actually a sort of extroversion of the mind and complete opposite of introversion, though it pretends to be that!
And to realize that in Being, one cannot have a past or a future.It is just a state of mind that too, will pass.
"The real glory of meditation lies not in any method but in its continual living, experience of presence, in its bliss, clarity, peace and most important of all, complete absence of grasping. The diminishing of grasping in yourself is a sign that you are becoming freer of yourself. And the more your experience the freedom, the clearer the sing that the ego and the hopes and fears that keep it alive are dissolving, and the closer you will come to the infinitely generous "wisdom that realizes egolessness:" Sogyal Rinpoche

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

What is the best meditation to sort spinal problems

One meditation keeps coming up in the Bihar school of yoga's prescription for backache -- all sorts of spinal problems -- and that is ajapa japa.

Why that is so, is not very clear? But for me the most trusted words on any therapy is the Bihar school, especially the words of Swami Satyanandaji -- he has the last word on everything and I have followed his words as if he is talking to me, directly through his books.

Ajapa Japa I also learnt as part the Bihar school of yoga workshops which I used to attend avidly though I had a little baby (who'd be with a baby sitter) and a terribly demanding job as a journalist and I lived in the truly far-off suburb Kandivali East those days, and travel back in train and hop into auto and reach home, dead tired, but somehow elevated for that terrible stress I'd put myself through (leaving a baby attended by a baby sitter will always be the toughest thing I'd chosen to do, as part of my yoga travels and experiences. But somehow maybe it was a sacrifice worth it, because my child is a woman now, and with a powerful yoga practice that came tangentially and was never imposed on her and she loves her practice:)

I'd learnt Prana Vidya too, and have often practiced it, to heal myself from a terrible attack of coughing bout which has, mercifully left me now despite having throttled me most of my life.. so I believe in meditation is the key to sort all problems. I am seeing how difficult it is however to promote it:(

But since I started working with the singing bowls, the idea of chanting as is prescribed by ajapa japa makes immense sense to me. It is a vibrational energy that you unleash. And it must be impacting the cells within.. if you read my singing bowls blog you will see the UCLA link I've provided that shows how the cells are "singing" all the time. When the tune is out of kilter, that is when things go kaput. I think as with the bowls, so also ajapa japa is setting the tune back on track, and that is why it is healing.

And soham, says Swami Satyanandaji, is the best mantra for this practice. It is Sri Prasadapara(the mantra of sublime grace) and that is the sound your breath as it rhymes insidel 21600 times a day..

So beautiful, and such a simple way, to heal. Ajapa Japa.

 (The image below is of swans, from the link I've attached. I used the image of the swan because the sound so-ham, said backwards, is ham-sa, meaning swan, and that is the nature of the mind which can ingest dirty water (life/karma) and intuit the real (ultimate truth) underneath the muck)

Monday, July 14, 2014

The asuras and devas in your own body: chakra map

I hope the charts are self-explanatory. Always,the  funniest thing when you are a yoga teacher, is to see how keen everybody is to make the higher chakras flow, especially the third eye. Actually, in itself it is a wrong aspiration. The need, if you are into chakras, is to have all chakras flow in a state of balance. In fact, those whose higher chakras are overflowing are prone to delusions, self-grandeur, depression, lunacy, spacy thinking etc.! To have one chakra flow at the expense of others(for how else can it overflow) is like wanting a river to overrun its banks and kill and ruin the land through which it flows..
Below the good and bad of each chakra, according to Anodea Judith's book on Chakra Wheels of Life, which I have used largely as my ready-reference on the topic. I also like Harish Johari's book on this and lately been reading the Psychology of the Chakras by Richard A Jelusich.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Exciting secrets about the power of trataka

(From one of the genuine meditation and raja yoga sites swamij.com. I recommend it to those who wish to have audio guidance for meditation and yogic dharana).

Apart from the effect on eye health and vision, these below are little known benefits of yogic trataka:

Harish Johari says this about trataka practice:
* It enhances the growth and development of the pineal gland
* One-pointedness of the mind
* Develops "witness consciousness" of the mind; the step back from itself.

Swami Satyananda, my very favorite guru, says this:
* It creates a higher sensitivity of pineal gland
* Greater impact on the hypothalamus which is involved with the sympathetic nervous system (aroused mental state) and parasympathetic nervous system (repairing mode of the nervous system);
* The individual's several states -- pleasure state, wakefulness/alertness/focus state, sleep and pain states.
* Blocks out hyper activity of the brain/restless or disturbing thoughts
* Sensitivity to higher vibrations.

These are the areas of the mind involved with psychic abilities and extra sensory perception, clairaudience and telepathy.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Gratitude, as a state of yoga

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I am guilty of confessing that my association with gratitude has been more in transgression. Too late, at 51, to find out that one is a cribber?! Maybe not, if you believe in rebirths, that somewhere now, this moment, if the awareness is complete, you may actually power yourself out of any mire.

So, yes, I realize, when I crib about the rains, that I also want it. When I crib about having to get up early mornings without the opportunity of a Casual Leave(oh, to be employed, once more, only for that paid leave luxury:) that I forget how happy I am that the rest of the entire day  is my own -- a luxury very few people, who work and earn. When I crib about giving the best of practice time to my students, that I forget that I  am grateful for so many who have lasted so many years with me, and a lot of my strengths as a teacher comes from each of them, and that I have learnt a lot in giving, from their being around.  Every short coming one has had, and has, is also a blessing in some way.

I realize this gratitude is a tricky thing. For instance, maybe you are not grateful because you feel cheesy thinking of the cosmic energy as some Godfather doling out goodies. But even if you did not think cheesy things, does it stop you from cribbing? If you did not crib, you are grateful. But which of us does not crib.

I realize we are caught between the devil and the deep sea. For one, we think being grateful to the cosmos is cheesy. The other side, we think if we did not crib, it means we are complacent, and are going to be stuck where we are, painting ourselves into a corner. This latter, I think, is why many of us who are action-oriented find it so difficult to be grateful. We shoot ourselves in our foot, when we do that.

No, it is not I who found out this amazing truth.

I am reading Louise L. Hay (and her friends') book titled  "Gratitude A way of life."

Here is something that may make sense from that book:
"Think about how you feel when you give a gift to a person. If the person looks it and her face falls or she says, "Oh, it is not my size, or not my color, or I never use anything like that or is that all there is." then I am sure you will have little desire to give her a present again. However, if her eyes dance with delight and she is pleased and thankful, then every time you see something she would like, you want to give it to her,whether you actually do or not.

"Gratitude brings more to be grateful about. It increases your abundant life.

"The Universe always gives us what we believe we deserve. Many of us have been raise to look at what we do not have and to feel only lack. We come from a belief in scarcity and then wonder why our lives are so empty.

"What Universe hears is:"I don't have and I am not happy," and that is what you get more of."

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In yoga, I understand, this state comes from a quiescent mind which is indifferent to pleasure or pain. It is quiet because it is content, which is the same shade or another expression of gratitude.

This state of yoga is the nirvikalpa Samadhi -- here we can move about, live a full life, doing our duties, but unagitated by either good or bad that befalls us. There is no anxiety, no desire, no propulsion despite the dynamism. It would be a difficult state, but Yoga Vashishta says this state of yoga is where the mind can offer worship at the alter of intellect and be able to control and discipline the wild elephant of the lower mind. Then, so, gratitude is a state of the higher self...

Maybe that is why it is so difficult to experience that as a continuum.. and that is why we are amazed at our prophets, that they feel that, and we look up at them, aspirationally.

But why should gratitude be so difficult to achieve as a state of mind. That is an interesting thought..

Yoga Journal, which I earlier used to look askance because it would not cover the mind aspect of yoga (without which it is not yoga really) has been taking up such topics too. Here is there article on gratitude for those who wish to take this idea further. In fact, there are several articles on the subject there that would be worth pursing.

Btw. my little guru Prachi Malik had this to say. As usual, she got it compact and so-correct: that for a complete sense of gratitude, all the chakras have to be balanced.

That makes so much sense.. maybe that is why we cannot be grateful. Until all our disharmonies are cleansed away:)

Monday, July 07, 2014

Now Yoga Kuteer in Bandra.info

Bandra.info,  which is popular amongst tourists and others keen to know what's brewing in the queen of suburbs, profiles Yoga Kuteer, here http://bandra.info/yoga-kuteer-undiluted-pure-tough-yoga/
(Image is of Jahnavi Sheriff, my daughter( classical Bharatanatyam dancer, hip-hop dancer, and yoga instructor)

Sunday, July 06, 2014

Chakras-- the darker side to a colourful tale

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I have a sense of absolute trust with what Judy Hall says, about certain things. She sounds wild, and dramatic and dreamy; she makes witch potions seem like soups you must have, if you know what I mean:)  You walk through the looking glass and enter a mad world of talking caterpillars and disappearing cats, when you read her book. I started reading them sheepishly, feeling ashamed of this irrational side to myself opening up. But you know, much of our lives, the real thing, it comes from a wild, unknown place. Everything else appears a dream, as with A midsummer night's dream:

“If we shadows have offended,
Think but this, and all is mended,
That you have but slumbered here
While these visions did appear.
And this weak and idle theme,
No more yielding but a dream,"

I have this book by Judy Hall, The Intuition Handbook, which is a book I dip in and out, nervously, because much of what she says, mmmm, very different, very odd, but what we all secretly believe in --about things that go bump in the dark!

Here, as I was glancing through, piqued again by the book and its suggestions, I stumbled upon this full chapter on chakras and the darker aspect when they are "stuck open".

Root chakra: Can draw contaminations from the earth.
Sacral chakra: Can suffer emotional hooks from someone we love or have had a sexual relationship.
Navel chakra (on which she spends some amount of ink): "Can be contaminated by your own emotional baggage" and that of someone else. Invasion and energy leeching  also take place  through this chakra unless you learn to open and shut it at will.
Heart chakra/higher heart : (nothing negative here is said ?!!)
Throat and third eye chakra: Strong beliefs block these chakras. Throat chakra block can rise from your unvoiced intuition. In the third eye block, you will open yourself to thoughts and influences  from others as well, not just from the earth from other spaces. "Premonition of doom" is what you feel.
Inner ear chakra (behind the ears): Feel harassed by voices /sensitivity to noise.
Crown/higher crown: if these are open, you will connect to being who do not always intend you well, though they may appear to be masquerading as the highest possible guidance.

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Thursday, June 26, 2014

Constipation cures, read on

My last column in Rediff.com talks of how constipation can be the silent killer. Here, in this one, the cures and simple ones, to sort out constipation forever.. in Rediff.com,  http://www.rediff.com/getahead/slide-show/slide-show-1-health-home-remedies-to-ease-constipation/20140626.htm

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Where do you focus, while up in the Brahmacharyasana

Drishti is everything for an advanced student .. that means a point of focus which introverts the mind and shuts down its extroversion. In Brahmacharyasana, the point of focus is the mooladhara chakra (root chakra) or the pelvic region. Or the navel center, the manipura chakra.

I just found out an interesting benefit of this pose, for women: rectifies uterus prolapse, which means it tightens the abdomen. Wow! How much there is to learn, in yoga.

Swami Satyanandaji (from whose book I accessed the above info) also says that it tones the abdomen and induces the pelvic lock and the vajroli mudra automatically.

Finally, Brahmacharyasana !!

This pose is usually easier for men, because they have naturally stronger upper back. For women, unless they are strong swimmers (or tree climbers, ha ha) this can be quite a challenge.
So, yes, I have posted this pose several times, getting it on and off, and often for dissatisfying short periods of time (ten seconds is what a phone timer is normally set to:)
But today, I proudly claim with that I am very comfortable in this pose. That is because I decided, as I am wont to do, work around the pose by cleaning up its preparatory poses.

So, whole of last week I worked on the lolasana (cradle pose), with the lotus leg lock. I tried to chunk it up, and hold it overall for one minute, which is why today I can so the Pose of Self-restraint (Brahmacharyasana means that, really)

I found out this humbly enough, while demoing it to a male student who was not able to do the squatting crow (that's what I call the dwipada bhujapidasana/two-legged shoulder pressing pose).
I did the preparatory leg folded at the knee and lo, when opened the legs, it was up in Brahmacharyasana. I held it long enough, despite the overwhelming surprise, to determine if I can actually do it.
What you need:
* Upper back strength.
* Core strength.
* If you do not have either (and you will be surprised how elusive and difficult to cultivate either are, especially if your bones are dense and your are super- muscled -- because the heaviness of your health itself will drag you down, and no jokes) you must spend considerable amount of time in lolasana/cradle pose with the knee bend inwards (if you can't do the lotus) or the lotus-leg-locked cradle pose.
* Comfort in ekapada bhujapidasana (one-legged shoulder press pose too)
* Also ability to be comfortable when retaining breath -- because as a beginner in some poses like this it would be difficult to breathe because the breathing will break the pose. So being able to do a demanding muscular move without breath and be comfortable enough, that is very important.

Happy sadhana!!